$2M Condemnation Verdict

New Jersey Law Journal, December 23, 2002

Linden v. Benedict Motel Corp: A Union County jury awarded $2 million Nov. 21 to a motel seeking compensation from the city of Linden for taking land for a road widening project.

In 2000, Linden condemned a parcel in front of the Benedict Motel on Route 1-9 North to accommodate traffic for a new commercial center near the Linden Airport. The city offered $115,000, and a three-member condemnation commission agreed that was a fair price. But the motel objected on grounds the land was used for 15 parking spaces whose loss would substantially diminish the property value.

During a four-day trial before Union County Assignment Judge Edward Beglin Jr., motel lawyer William Ward of Florham Park’s Carlin, Ward, Ash & Heiart LLC presented evidence that the loss of spaces meant the loss of an equal number of rental units because a city ordinance requires one parking space per unit.

Linden’s counsel, Louis DiMare Jr., a partner in Westfield’s Garrubbo, Romankow, Rinaldo & Capece, argued that the value of the spaces was irrelevant because they violated state and city codes.

But the motel’s evidence said the spaces were part of a 30-year-old site plan that was never challenged by the city, and Beglin ruled that the spaces were legal, leaving the jury to set a value.

Ward says one of his two experts valued the parking places at $2.2 million and the other said they were worth $1.3 million. A defense expert testified that the frontage accommodated seven spaces at best, with a $500,000 value.

Beglin’s Dec. 5 judgment calls for reduction of the $2 million award by the $115,000 offer deposited in 2000. He also added interest, bringing the total to $2.18 million. Interest continues to accrue at $478 a day, the order says.

Commercial developer Starwood Ceruzzi of Fairfield, Conn., will fund the judgment under the terms of its contract with the city. DiMare says the city will ask for a new trial and appeal if necessary.

Starwood Ceruzzi’s lawyer, Brian Fahey of Mendham’s Fahey & Fahey, attended the trial and is working on the appeal. He says he will ask Beglin for a new trial so the city can present newly discovered evidence, 30-year-old zoning records he found in a dusty municipal building basement after the verdict.

The condemnation commissioners were Robert Bourne of Summit’s Bourne, Noll & Kenyon; Barbara Cadigan, of counsel to Summit’s Ventura, Miesowitz, Albano & Keough; and William Ard of Ard Appraisal Co. in Clark.

– By Henry Gottlieb

Vol. CLXX – No. 12 – Index 1008
December 23, 2002

This article is reprinted with permission from the DECEMBER 23, 2002 issue of the New Jersey Law Journal. ©2002 NLP IP Company. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.